View Full Version : septic systems

arthur berger
2-Jun-2004, 05:20
I was thinking of moving to a new house that has a septic system, rather than a sewer hookup. I would need to build a new darkroom, but I cant find a good answer as to what to do with the waste lines. Kodak states that you shouldnt run the waste through a septic system. Do any of you have darkrooms that dont drain into a sewer? BTW Black and White chemicals only.

Mark Sampson
2-Jun-2004, 06:02
Where does Kodak state that waste b/w chemicals can not go through a septic system? That directly contradicts advice they have given before. Certainly you should not dump used fixer down the drain- there are ways to reclaim the silver- but ordinary photo chemicals should pose no danger to a septic system. Sorry I can't find a reference to the full explanation right now, but I'll look for it.

Annie M.
2-Jun-2004, 07:28

You may want to contact one of Kodak's Environmental Specialists, in Canada they are part of the Health, Environment & Security Services. I found them very helpful and they sent me quite a comprehensive information package on the issue. If you contact Kodak in your country they will certainly have similar publications regarding the appropriate disposal of spent photoprocessing solutions. One thing I do recall is that they recommended that you restrict the disposal of undesilvered fixer to less than 1% of the daily household septic tank usage.

What I ended up doing was taking my spent solutions to a 1 Hour photo shop in the area that is also on septic and they just add my chemistry to the 'brew' that they truck out for disposal. I am surrounded by farms on wells so ground water contamination is an important issue for me as well as septic failure. However, I know someone in the village that has been putting a modest amount of B&W chemistry (no selenium) through his septic system for over 10 years with no problems.

Cheers, Annie

2-Jun-2004, 08:37
arthur -

aside from what kodak states, you should find out from your local government what THEY permit. often times if you are not a commercial operation, you can just fill up a 5 gallon buckets and take them to a disposal facility.

i have kids, and don't want to have photo chemicals "perking" through my yard, so i contacted a waste hauler and just have them take the stuff away. it is pretty inexpensive less than $100 / year, and with the fixer, there is a check in the mail after it is processed, and you will have the peace of mind that you aren't dumping chemical waste down the drain.

Mike Regimenti
2-Jun-2004, 09:25
I had a B & W darkroom for many years in a home with a septic system. Often I would process 100-300 8x10's in a single night. I also did a little E-4 and some Cibachrome work. We never had any problems with the septic system. I sat in on a beginning B&W class several months ago & the instructor (background in physics & chemistry) said B&W chemistry would actually help the system. However, color chemistry is a no no. He recommended the use of hypo clearing agents, etc. to reduce the washing times & reduce the total water entering the system.

Calamity Jane
2-Jun-2004, 09:47
I've always lived in places with a septic system and I'd suggest that you not dump the chemicals into the septic. A healthy septic system requires a vigerous growth of bacteria in the tank to break down organic waste. A shot of toxic (to bacteria) chemicals could "kill" the field and require it to be re-started.

In the rural area where I live, my "grey water" (laundry, sump pump, etc - non-biological) gets pumped out onto the surface in a low area not to far from the house (but well away from the well that supplies drinking water). I run my darkroom drain into the grey water sump. Funny thing is it doesn't seem to hurt the grass! I guess the sunlight and open air helps break down the chamicals.

If you have neighbours who may be effected by your grey water discharge, this might not work for you.

Personally, I like the looks of soap suds in the grass ;-)

Jim McD
2-Jun-2004, 10:59
I save it up in a 5 gallon plastic gas can (about $10) and bring it to work to dispose of in the municipal sewer system

Brian Schall
2-Jun-2004, 12:23
I am an avid B&W photographer and also the technical person for the liquid waste program (i.e. septic systems) for the New Mexico Environment Dept.

Do not put photo chemicals into your septic system. Photo chemicals are classified as household hazardous waste, therefore by most regulations are prohibited from being discharged to a septic system. Chemicals are not good for a biological system. Septic systems are living, breathing systems that are designed for organic loadings, not chemical loadings. (As an aside, do not use septic additives, as waste of money, and do not use powdered detergents, lots of filler similar to fine clay.) The wash water from film and prints is fine. The city of Albuquerque recommends putting the chemicals in a large container and letting the liquid evaporate. When the resultant sludge builds up to a sufficient quantity, take the container to the local household haz waste drop off. The city does not want this waste in their 50 million gallons a day wastewater plant.

Remember, what goes into a septic system is discharged into the ground and will eventually end up in the ground water which you or someone else will drink.


Reinhold Schable
2-Jun-2004, 12:24
In B&W chemistry, silver laden fixer is the more important issue. To strip the siver, toss about 6 or 8 square inches of aluminum foil into each gallon of used fixer and let it sit for a day or two. The aluminum will replace the silver, forming a black slugde of metallic silver in the bottom of the container. Decant off the clear fixer which can now be disposed of with minimal environmental concern. Save up the silver sludge, and after a while, you'll have enough to make a piece of jewelry or some other "nugget" as a by-product of your creative genius.

2-Jun-2004, 16:19
This is an old and tired argument. The old timers say no problem while the new environmental types say never. Of course the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I thought Robert Chapman handled it well in Photo Techniques "Photo Chemicals in Septic Systems" Vol. 21, No. 2 Mar/Apr 2000 pg. 16.

While many photo chemicals are toxic, in the dilutions and concentrations to be found in a septic system, they should pose little threat to the bacterial flora. In fact some of these bacteria will be able to breakdown the components of developers over time. Most non professional use (a very subjective term to be sure) will not harm a spetic system.

Fixers containing silver and other heavy metals (toners) are another story and should be disposed of properly. While the chance of groundwater contamination may be slight, the potential liability for such contamination is much greater then the expense of proper disposal.

Good luck.

Lou Nargi
10-Jun-2004, 20:15
I have a septic systum and I see no problem draining my b+w cemacals in the systum. I read the artical in the mar/apr2000 photo tech. where Robart Chapman says there should be no problem.

[ only b+w cemicals, no coler, no heavy metals] Bruce Barnbaum also says that when mixed together they become harmless, you can put on your lawn and it won't kill the grass,I tryed it and it did't harm the grass.